The year in review

The year

Thirteen years ago, I bought an Audi A6. An expensive car, then and now. I signed up to a finance package and committed myself for the next 3 years.

The reason I signed that contract back then was that I'd also just got my first job as an IT consultant*. It was a huge leap from my previous position and, I'll be honest, a bit of a stretch. I'd past the 4 stage interview and doubled my salary overnight but I was cautious and still a little bit scared. The job was also going to be the hardest of my life. I'd be 100% remote or on site, I'd spend every day with new people and be responsible for some very large quotes. So I decided to do this properly. The job came with a car benefit and I decided to buy the right tool for the job. However, I also wanted to tie myself to the mast. I couldn't quit now, I had a car to pay off!

On Friday, I signed the order for a new company van. Co-incidentally, almost exactly as expensive as that A6.



Friday gone marked my 1 year anniversary of 'quitting the day job' and I'm still here! I have heard say that the first years' business is the hardest, or that most businesses fail in the first 12 months etc and I suppose it's true. It has been a very busy 12 months indeed! 

There have been alot of highlights this year of course, but I'll highlight some of the main points.
In January I moved into the studio to give me a full time office. Not a move I was expecting to be honest as of course working from home is far more cost effective. As it turns out though, essential and a very good move! I'm also glad that Michael (who I share the space with) doesn't mind LEGO all over the place.
May saw Brick City hit the shelves which is obviously a massive highlight of the year. I've said it to many people, but seeing a book on the shelves with your name on it is quite simply As. Cool. As. Tits. I'll say no more!

At some point towards the end of Spring, book 2 got the green light. 'Brick Wonders' will hit the shelves in 2014 as my second book and it started to take over the summer. It also heralded a new face in the studio, that you might have seen on some of the time lapses. When I launched Brick City in Edinburgh, I made a comment that Brick Wonders was coming and I could really do with a hand. Well, Kirsten took up the challenge and spent most of this summer with me in the studio, researching, planning and building models. Not the worst way to spend your summer!

This summer also saw a new line of business start to blossom. After building Brick City, I made the decision to keep the models and put them into an exhibition. In between Brick Wonders models I spoke to a variety of museums and the Brick City tour started to book up, giving the business a planned income that can stretch almost 3 years out. 

Just last week, the full Brick City tour opened to the public in Paisley Museum and Art Gallery with a raft of press and TV interviews. It's been a strange experience to be honest. Many of the models had been stored since the book was completed so I'd not even seen them in 3D for over a year. Of course, the museum staff and visitors had never seen them, so it was exciting to see them through someone else's eyes. Having received the first weeks visitor figures of over 4000 people, I guess they're OK!

September saw the end of something. In Brighton we closed down ICON UK / UKLUG for the last time. I posted why at the time and the short story is that it just isn't financially viable anymore. What I hadn't expected though was my reaction to finally saying goodbye. There was a reason I ran off stage at the end - I was pretty sure you didn't want to see a grown man crying on stage! Everything changes though and you do have to say goodbye at some point.



When I moved into the studio, which is a 2 mile walk away, one of the thoughts at the back of my mind was 'perhaps I can walk to work and perhaps get a bit fitter'. A word to the wise - it does. In fact, it's fair to say that this year has been a revelation to me. A revelation of just how unhealthy I was last year.

Working on the road is terrible for you. Not only do you have very little routine, but whatever anyone says, it's hard not to eat badly, drink too much and get too little exercise. As well practised as you may be, it's still stressful and the days are long. 

It wasn't until I'd spent a year walking to work (most of the time), working a proper 9-5 (most of the time) and actually living at home (most of the time) that I realised just how bad my previous lifestyle was. I can honesty say that I feel 100% better now than I did this time last year. I've not visited the doctors once this year or been ill at all since last winter. When I work hard, it's because I want to and I will reap the benefits. If I know I'll be unproductive in the office then I'll simply do something else. 

I know how lucky I've been to be in a position where I could earn money doing what I love, but I'm now in the position to benefit from my own hard work. I've realised this year that the past 13 years have taught me a huge amount - and of course paid the mortgage. However, I'd been putting in the extra hours and going the extra mile for someone else's wallet not my own. Now, I'm working hard for myself and that feels really good. AND my health is better too. 



Iceland. Oh, wow. With Brick Wonders pretty much in the bag this autumn, Kitty and I traded in 200,000 points over 7 different rewards schemes for a holiday we'd been wanting to do for a long time. As much as I'd researched Iceland, I was still blown away by the country and people. There are a few blog posts on that of course, so I won't re-iterate the here. If you get the chance though, go.


In conculsion

All in all, it's been a really great year. On the anniversary of my first day on my own I found myself giving a lecture to the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. A serious lecture to a group of professionals. I can only hope that the next year is as successful! The signs are certainly there, but that's a blog post for another day....



*A small rant! In my eye, an 'IT Consultant' is NOT something you become after college, or after a short training course. If you're paid by the hour in the UK, you're not an 'IT Consultant'. If you are doing a pre-determined task assigned by someone else, you're not an 'IT Consultant' you are a CONTRACTOR. 
If you're paid by the day or you spend more time in meetings than on tech. Plan, design and architect 6 or 7 figure projects? Then you're an IT consultant. That was my role. Day 1 project in 2001 - design a completely seamless migration path from cc:mail to Exchange. With zero possibility of mail loss and zero publicly available tooling. My first real project? A budget of £1.2 million. THAT's an IT consultants' role.